Create a Watercolor Text Effect in Photoshop

In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at a quick and easy way to execute a watercolor text effect in Photoshop. By combining the right font, an awesome set of brushes, a filter and a few other subtle techniques, realistic watercolor text is a breeze to create. This tutorial is geared to anyone who has played around in Photoshop a dozen or more times. Let’s jump right in!

What We Are Creating

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Gather A Few Materials

There are only two resources that you’ll need to pull off this effect and one of them isn’t really even required. First, you’ll need a single or set of high-resolution watercolor brushes. For this specific tutorial, I’m using this brush set provided by WeGraphics. The second resource you’ll need is a paper texture. There are thousands of these available on the web, just look around at DeviantArt and you’ll find one suited for the job. Let’s jump into the tutorial.

Step 1: Background Placement

Choose a size for the project you want to work on and place the paper texture into the project. If you want to follow step-by-step, I’m using a 660px X 300px canvas size.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 2: Type Placement

Throw out some text on the canvas. In my opinion a serif, script or handdrawn font is more appealing with the watercolor look. Here, I’ve used the font “Larry Regular” at 178pt with the Standard Ligatures turned on. This can be located in the Character Window near the bottom. The color of the text is not significant at this point.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 3: Layer Style Options

On the text layer, drop the fill down to 0% and double click the layer to bring up the Layer Style options. Add an inside stroke of 1px at an opacity around 44%. The color of the stroke should match the color that you plan to use with the watercolor brush. I went with the color #023d8b for this tutorial. This is what you should have so far:

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 4: Select Text

Hold down (CTRL – for PC) or (CMD – for Mac) while clicking the thumbnail of the type layer to select the text. Now add a new layer above all others and make sure that you are on this newly created layer. The text should still be selected, indicated by a dashed line surrounding the text.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 5: Apply Brush

While on the newly created layer and with the outline of the text still selected, grab your brush tool and choose a watercolor brush that is larger than the height and width of your text. If you downloaded the set of brushes mentioned at the beginning of the article, try using the brush titled “Water 6”. This particular brush is 1,895 pixels wide and is plenty large enough to cover a line of text.

Make sure you have your foreground color set to match the same color that you set your stroke at, #023d8b for this example. Simply click on the layer to apply a watercolor effect inside the outlined text. You may have to repeat this step several times until you get to look the way you want, CTRL +Z is your friend in this case.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Remove the selection and you can see that the effect is coming along nicely.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Looks pretty good, but there is still one more step we can take to make it a bit more convincing…

Step 6: Apply Filter

While still on the layer where you applied the watercolor brush, go to Filter > Distort > Ripple… Change the amount to around 36% and the size to medium and hit OK. This will help to remove some of those straight lines and add a slight ripple effect along the edges of the text. You’ll see that the stroke remains in place allowing the watercolor to spill slightly over the edges.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Wrapping Things Up

So there it is, digital watercolor typography the easy way. There are a number of places where this type treatment could come in handy in both print and web design alike. If you enjoyed the tutorial, or know of some ways to improve it, I would love to here your thoughts in the comment section.

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  1. Jan January 20, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    Glad I found this tut. Easy to handle! Thx!
    @Ina, yes it is.

  2. Anh April 1, 2014 at 1:38 am #

    Hi Thanks for this tutorial!! I had fun creating water colour script writing.

  3. Laura April 9, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    Looks like I’m the only person who didn’t get through to the end…can somebody help?

    At Step 5 where it says “Simply click on the layer to apply a watercolor effect inside the outlined text” – I tried this but the tool was a black outline of something that looked like a giant blob hovering over the selected text, but clicking achieved nothing..any ideas friendly folks?

  4. Amy May 26, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

    Thank you so much! This is a great tutorial and I love the font:)

  5. sharon June 12, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Thank you, this is so incredibly helpful, not to mention easy!

  6. Labina Kirby August 2, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    This is cool! and easy to follow. Thanks <3

  7. Ariana August 2, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I LOVE this tutorial and have used it a few times already and definitely have stored it away in my arsenal for design work.
    Thanks for the great share!

  8. bree October 28, 2014 at 2:09 am #

    thanks for making this so easy and simple to learn! love that I have freedom to tweak as well.

  9. RJ November 16, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    thanks so much for this. wow! :)

  10. Teri December 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Grr, I guess I’m the only one who can’t get this to work. I get all the way to “simply click on the layer to apply the color…” (Step 5) and all I get is white fill in the text. I set everything exactly as described with the exception of the font (I don’t have Fontin Bold, so used Futura. My foreground color is set to #023d8b and I’m using the “Water 6” brush. I’m using CS6. Any ideas?

  11. Bijutoha January 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Nice tutorial, Another note I have that could you say something how to change font on a text layer? Actually I want to change all text layers at the same time. Is it possible then let me know about it?

  12. Kassie March 4, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    Just did this tutorial and it was extremely helpful! Thank you!!! :)

  13. Syd March 13, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks so much for this! It’s easy to follow and perfectly suited for what I needed.

  14. Rita March 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    Hello! I want to make a transparent logo but if I untick the background layer it will take some of the watercolor looking texture with it….how can I apply it to the text and save ONLY the text as a PNG? Thanks for this awesome tutorial by the way!!!!!!!!!!!! Please advise if you can! Thanks again!!


  15. Amy March 23, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    I am having a little trouble with step 5. I am in CS6 (Mac).
    I am on the new layer, the text is selected. I selected the brush. The foreground color is set. When I click on the new layer, the outline of the brush doesn’t place. It just stays floating around with my cursor.

    What am I doing wrong?

    • Shawn Ramsey March 23, 2015 at 10:06 am #

      @Amy – Is the layer you’re applying the brush to above all other layers?

  16. Amy March 23, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Thanks for your quick response. I primarily work in Indesign and Illustrator. I am trying to learn Photoshop.

    I took a screen shot of my layers panel and tried to insert it, but it didn’t work.

    Here are the layers in the Layers Panel from top to bottom:
    New Layer (trying to apply the brush)
    Paper Texture

    • Shawn Ramsey March 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

      @Amy – No problem! When you select the text, before applying the brush, is there a dashed line surrounding the text?

      Also, are you able to apply the brush to just a blank layer without any selected text? Make sure the brush color is not the same as your background.

      Also, make sure the ‘New Layer’ is not a clipping mask (indicated by a tiny arrow pointing down at the layer below. It will not work if so.

  17. Amy March 23, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    I just tried it again. I started a whole new document and your instructions worked like they are supposed to. I have no idea what I did. Thanks for your help!

    • Shawn Ramsey March 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

      @Amy – Great, glad it worked!

  18. Tom March 27, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    hi i this tutorial is exactly what i was looking for, however I’m using it for hand lettering. So i’ve drawn it out, scanned it, vectorised it on illustrator and now I’m completely stuck. I have no idea how to start the process haha! Please help!!! Thanks :)

  19. Martina April 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    Great tutorial Shawn! Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for it for ages.

  20. Lia May 2, 2015 at 1:59 am #

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I found it so easy to do – it’s been driving me mad trying to figure it out for myself!

  21. Linda May 16, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    This was very helpful. Much appreciated! The only issue I had is I’m using PSE10 on a PC and in order to change the “fill” opacity, which does not show up on the menu is to select the text layer and hit shift 1, or 2 or whatever.

    Thanks again so very much.

  22. Melissa June 6, 2015 at 2:57 am #

    I’ve always wondered how people do the watercolor effect. So happy I found this. Thank you!

  23. Crizmo June 19, 2015 at 1:46 am #

    Nice tutorial
    That’s exactly what I was looking for
    Thanks and keep sharing some more tutorial of this kind

  24. Ann June 25, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    I just wanted to say thanks so much.
    This was really helpful! Truly appreciate it.

  25. Lauren July 14, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    Cant’ find the right brush…. I found dry water brush which doesn’t do anything. Using PhotoShop CC 2014

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